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Study Strategies While in Target Country

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4343 days ago

241 posts - 270 votes 
Speaks: English*, GermanB1

 Message 1 of 4
25 January 2009 at 8:48pm | IP Logged 
Dear Professor,

I am writing this inquiry so that I might receive some feedback from you on several questions and scenarios I have. Although I have posted in another forum some of the information and questions I am about to ask, they are but generalizations, and I suppose your expertise is useful when specifics abound.

In less than two months, I will travel to Germany, where I am to study for four and a half months, in a university setting. Like you, I share a love for Germanic languages, and someday hope to learn Dutch and maybe others. For now, since I have an obsessive personality, I think I'll stick with German. I am currently at level "B1", and I work with vocabulary, L-R, and make use of German media daily.

My L-R book of choice is "Harry Potter". Rather amateurish, but keeps my attention enough. As I understand, one is to read as the voice reads along. What is not yet understood, however, is how one gains knowledge of the text through "osmosis", for lack of a better word. I was under the impression that L-R used context to make the meaning of words more apparent, but I could be indeed mistaken. I am at perhaps a 50% comprehension level, which might be part of the problem. Any clarification on this would be very beneficial.

Several questions, given my background: Firstly, given your methods that you have previously written about while you lead a "monastic" lifestyle, what sort of study habits can you recommend for a person in their target language's country? I plan to all but shun the use of English during the four and a half months. I suppose the best answer might be to simply expose oneself to as much German as possible?

Secondly, I realize that your scriptorum method is designed for learners of different writing systems (unless I am mistaken), however, would writing down sentences, or large paragraphs of German be beneficial towards me? If you have already addressed this, please forgive me.

My final question, and forgive me for not being as concise as other members, is how much progress, given strong study habits and the prospect of the vast majority of speaking, reading and writing being in German, can you "predict" over a four and a half month period? I know this is perhaps a question that is difficult to answer, but since you know a great deal about proper language acquisition, I suppose you might know.

Thank you kindly for your time,


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Senior Member
dgryski.blogspot.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Dutch, Esperanto

 Message 2 of 4
25 January 2009 at 10:55pm | IP Logged 
You might be interested in some of the books in SIL's Language Learning Bookshelf, specifically the items marked "Essays on Field Learning".

Damian Gryski

Edited by dmg on 25 January 2009 at 11:22pm

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United States
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 Message 3 of 4
26 January 2009 at 5:04pm | IP Logged 
Mr. Recht,

The L-R method as originally posited on this forum was quite clearly and unambiguously offered as a self-study program of maximum possible intensity, and unless you are doing what was stated in that post – namely listening to German narrative as you read the corresponding English text for every waking hour of every day for at least a full week – then I do not think it is fair to describe what you are doing as “L-R.” Well, whatever you are doing, I do not understand how you do not understand how you gain a knowledge of the text – there is no mysterious “osmosis” involved, but rather simply you read it in your language and then in the language you are learning, which makes following the narrative content much easier. At any rate, yes, trying to read a text with a 50% comprehension level is indeed self-defeating. I believe you need more like 80% to profit from, again not “osmosis,” but rather simply learning words in their natural context rather than excessive dictionary work. Continuing on this topic, if you only have 50% comprehension of a child’s book, then, with all due respect, I do not believe you are truly at an “intermediate” level, however you came by your B1 rating. Finally, while translations of Harry Potter books are a marvelous resource of relatively simply and yet interesting connected narrative for learners of exotic and difficult languages for which other such texts are rare or non-existent, I really would not counsel their use for a language like German, which has a huge body of authentic texts and English translations you could be using, texts that would take you so much further into the spirit of the language.

Yes, Scriptorium can help you a great deal, but yes, I have discussed this so often and at such length before that I do not care to go into it again here.

As for other techniques, clearly you are already on the right track and the true key is to avoid English like the plague. Begin with yourself: make yourself think in German from the time you get on the plane. Have nothing to do with other Americans. Germans are among the least obnoxious populations I have ever met in terms of English banditry, but, on the other hand (particularly in a university environment), you are going to meet large numbers of people who speak English far better than you can speak German, and if you get involved in content-based meaningful discussions, it may make more natural sense to use English, so you will have to avoid these kinds of learning experiences and focus on pure language acquisition. To that end, do not rely on simply immersing yourself and hoping to “pick it up” while you are there, but go way out of your way to establish at least one regular linguistically savvy contact who can function as a professional one-on-one tutor (pay as much as you can if you have to), particularly when you first arrive. In terms of self-correction, procure and carry about with you pocket-sized English-German dictionaries, verbal guides, and grammatical references works. Do not walk into conversational situations blind, but rather rehearse them beforehand and look up words and constructions you are likely to need. Write down all new words and phrases that you meet, check their meanings, and then endeavor to use them yourself until they become familiar. Concentrate upon conversational interaction while you have the chance, but do not neglect to do a maximum of reading and writing as well whenever you are alone.

Going to spend 4 1/2 months in a country is not a guarantee that you will make progress, and legions of students – none of whom set out consciously intending to squander the opportunity – nonetheless end up doing so. However, if you do all of the above, I believe that you can expect to go up several notches of any calibration you might use, and thus measure some sort of “low-advanced” upon completion. Indeed, if you truly have an obsessive-compulsive personality (and language learning is emphatically a better channel for this than any kind of medication or corrective therapy), then I believe you will find that 4 1/2 months should make for a very comfortable landing on a learning curve plateau. That is, you should make very rapid progress for most your time there, and just as you are leveling off starting to wonder if something has gone wrong, it will be time for you to return home.

Best of luck to you in your studies– with a name like “Recht,” you cannot go wrong!

Alexander Arguelles
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Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*, GermanB1

 Message 4 of 4
26 January 2009 at 5:29pm | IP Logged 

Thank you for your detailed reply. I will research your previous posts on Scriptorum, and must say, I made a mistake referring to my "L-R", as I had been listening and reading in German, and occasionally cross-referencing it with English.

thank you,

Mr. Recht

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